Our Favourite Books to Read Outdoors

Alayna’s Reads:

Isn’t reading outside in summer a special kind of bliss? Especially under a tree, in a hammock, by a river or lake (or, if you’re really lucky, all of the above, all at once). And reading poetry outside is a special subset of reading outside; it can powerfully recalibrate you to read one poem, or even a stanza, then lay the book down, close your eyes, and hover in how it makes you more porous to the world for a moment. So, in celebration of July, here’s a short list of books I recommend for reading outside this summer, which can be bought either as a bundle or individually (click on the photo to buy the bundle):


Wet Dream, by Erin Robinsong

Early last summer I was copy editing Wet Dream, by Erin Robinsong. Actually maybe it was late spring, because my neighbour’s magnolia was in flower. I was working outside at the wooden table in my backyard, and I kept getting so absorbed by Erin’s poems—their pulsations and liquidities—that I’d forget I was supposed to be copy editing and end up having to go back to the beginning of the page and start again. There was a slight breeze, pale bruised magnolia petals falling on the manuscript pages as I worked. And over the course of the afternoon, some stiff borders in me were dissolved, while a troubled aliveness was reconstituted:

The sky carried everything that could be

Thought inside of it like spores
That only water could water into possible

Palpable nameable flameable form
Or liquid lived as this condition

Of minglement, before or during
400 years of a dry dream

Of discrete, of leakproof as
A concept that invented plastic and

Metallurgic slag and glyphosate
Since skin doesn’t breathe since

It’s sealed as an airtight nightmare
Of singular dosage, you eat yourself

Since to remove or dam or constrict or
Deprive or bleed off or siphon or drown

Or understate or sell or pump full of
The only nonhydrophilic substance

Which is oil, would be leachant of
The wet mind of reality

Fouled and filtered by clouds mixed
Into thought, I grow whet & planetary

As a creature
Whose organs clean the water

On a Monday as perpetual liquid vastness
Passes through borders of continuous peristalsis

Yellow Crane, by Susan Gillis

I love what Suzanne Buffam says about Susan Gillis’s Yellow Crane: “In these clear-eyed, searching mediations on time, place, art, desire, and the complex ecology of inner life—among other ecologies—a sensualist’s love of the fleshed and fleeting world wrestles with the cognitive dissonance of conscious life in our times. What Gills says about a wasps’ nest might as well be said about her book: Ingenious device, this paper house. The wind rushes in its cells.’”

Yellow Crane is a restless, self-revising book of noticing, full of multi-section nature poems that, as Mary Jo Salter said about them, “arrive at an unforced coherence”. I would recommend, in particular, finding a hammock to curl up in to read the long poem “Obelisk,” a suite of fragments in which writers, artists, thinkers, cooks, and others congregate in a hammock on the edge of a hayfield to compare notes on what we value.

Heaven’s Thieves, by Sue Sinclair

I remember the first time I read Sue Sinclair’s Heaven’s Thieves in manuscript form. I had biked out to Humber Bay Park, and spread a blanket under a tree by Lake Ontario to read. As I let myself sink into Sue’s depth-sounding poems, looking up between pages at the lake-light flickering against the shore and experiencing uncanny quivers of recognition:

Same Old Light

The lake’s reflection rippling
on the undersides
of willows, faintly,
like a film running
through characters and plot,
playing itself out, blurry,

it’s happening, though
you can’t say what it
is—the feathered antennae
of the goldenrod quiver

Brenda’s Reads:

This week, generous friends are letting my family stay at their cottage, and I’m planning on spending a good deal of our time reading outside, which combines my two favourite states of being. While I do enjoy the guilty pleasure of reading fiction (and not only “literary” fiction—I admit to thrillers and beachy romances!), there’s no to better mind to usher anyone into a deep and still state of being than Don Domanski (these titles can be purchased individually through the links below or as a bundle by clicking the photo).

Don’s work continues to be profoundly meaningful and generative for me as a poet and as a human existing inside the more-than-human world. Brick Books has been lucky enough to publish three of Don’s books:

  • the post-humous Fetishes of the Floating World, which continues Don’s lifelong exploration of mystical ecology, the sacred dimensions of what-is and deep time;
  • the Governor General Award-winning All Our Wonder Unavenged, which the GG jury described  as “stunningly beautiful and delicate… a deeply moving vision about the intricacies of the everyday world. A spiritual and metaphysical triumph;”
  • and the under-sung Bite Down Little Whisper, where “the heart’s need for unity and reverence is present as a whisper we hear in occasional moments of quietude, when it’s possible to perceive the workings of a larger existence.”

I can’t say it better than that.